15 Best Castles and Palaces in Germany

Burg Eltz Castle

Christopher Larson / TripSavvy

Home to over 25,000 castles, Germany is one of the best countries to visit if you want to dive into history and walk through a real-life fairytale. During the Middle Ages, Germany was divided into many small, competitive feudal states and principalities. These unstable times encouraged the construction of secure and fortified castles in Germany.

With so many castles, you'll find that most are in varying states of preservation. While some remain in ruins, others have been fully restored and transformed into museums, restaurants, shopping malls, and even hotels you can sleep in. Many restorations took place centuries ago, when romanticism was the style of the moment, which makes these castles even more Disney-like with turreted towers, isolated settings, suits of armor, drawbridges, moats, and more. The best castles in Germany may not always be the biggest or easiest to get to but they are the most picturesque.

01 of 15

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Keren Su / Photodisc / Getty Images

Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany
Phone +49 8362 930830

In charming Bavaria, 73 miles southwest of Munich, sits one of the most famous castles in the world built in 1869 by mad King Ludwig II. Neuschwanstein was constructed as a fantastic private summer retreat born straight from his imagination, not for defense but for pleasure. However, the king never got to enjoy it because he mysteriously died by drowning in nearby Lake Starnberg.

In addition to its strange origins, the castle is a wonder. There are turrets and even flush toilets and heating. It also pays homage to German composer Richard Wagner, with many scenes from his operas depicted in the interior. Neuschwanstein even takes its name from the castle in Wagner's opera Lohengrin. Today it is most famous for serving as the inspiration for the castle in Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

02 of 15

Eltz Castle

Burg Eltz
Hans Georg Eiben
56294 Wierschem, Germany
Phone +49 2672 950500

In the West of Germany between Trier and Koblenz lies Eltz Castle. Hidden in a small valley in the middle of a dense forest, the castle has been owned and occupied by the same family since the 12th century. The castle is extremely photogenic from afar, sitting on a rocky outcrop with a long bridge leading up to it. Many say the castle is haunted and past visitors have claimed to spot visions of medieval-era nights still guarding the grounds.

A guided tour allows visitors to gaze at the original furniture and art collection, with armor in the Knights' Hall dating back to the 16th century. Eltz Castle is relatively unknown and can be pleasantly uncrowded compared to other castles in Germany. The castle is only open for visitors between April and October.

03 of 15

Sanssouci Palace

People outside of Sanssouci Palace

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Maulbeerallee, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
Phone +49 331 9694200

Considered to be "the Versaille of Germany," this palace served as a summer retreat for the royalty of Berlin and is located in the nearby city of Potsdam. Created for Frederick the Great in the 18th century and named after the French phrase "sans souci," which translates to "without worries," this Rococo palace was indeed an idyllic playland for the rich and powerful.

It may be smaller than its French inspiration, but some believe the grounds are even more magical. There are terraced gardens leading down to the Great Fountain, Temple of Friendship, Chinese House, and the park is home to over 43 miles (70 kilometers) of walkways. Frederick the Great was eventually buried in the park 200 years after his death and Sanssouci and its many gardens are protected as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Heidelberg Castle

People walking around inside Heidelberg Castle

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Phone +49 6221 658880

In southwest Germany about 57 miles south of Frankfurt, you'll find the ruins of the once majestic castle of Heidelberg. The castle used to be a Gothic masterpiece but was destroyed several times over the centuries. Looking up from the town, the ruins dominate the skyline. Once you mount the hill, be sure to look back at another epic view of the city and bridge spanning the river.

The castle has an incredibly long history, with some of the first mentions of its existence dating back to the 12th century. The castle has been partially rebuilt with different architectural styles clearly identifiable among the ruins. For example, the Ottheinrich Building is one of the earliest palace buildings of the German Renaissance.

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05 of 15

Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle
Sean Gallup
Auf d. Wartburg 1, 99817 Eisenach, Germany
Phone +49 3691 2500

The Wartburg Castle lies in the east of Germany, close to Eisenach, and is perched over the forests of Thuringia. Built in 1067, it is one of the oldest and best-preserved Romanesque castles in all of Germany.

Legendary guests stayed here, such as the poet Walther von der Vogelweide, whose poetry, in turn, inspired Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser, and Elisabeth of Hungary's charitable acts here led to her sainthood. However, the most famous guest was the church reformist Martin Luther who lived here while he translated the Bible into German. Visitors can even see the very room he stayed in—complete with the ink stain from when he allegedly threw his inkwell at the devil.

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Ludwigsburg Palace

Wide shot of Ludwigsberg Palace with the fountain in the front

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Schlossstraße 30, 71634 Ludwigsburg, Germany
Phone +49 7141 186400

This is one of Germany's largest Baroque palaces. Just outside of Stuttgart, its grounds are as lovely as its interior with a magnificent Blühendes Barock (Baroque garden) complete with a lake. Inside, the Baroque grandeur continues. There is a Barockgalerie (Baroque Gallery), Keramikmuseum (Ceramics Museum), and Modemuseum (Fashion Museum). To entertain the younger visitors, Kinderreich is a modern, interactive museum where children are free to touch the exhibits.

To see the palace in a more playful setting, visit during the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival. Billed as the largest pumpkin festival in the world, hundreds of thousands of pumpkins are decorated and used as decoration with fun events like a pumpkin boat race and giant pumpkin smash. Another special event is the annual Christmas market.

07 of 15

Drachenburg Castle

Drachenburg Castle


Michael Zegers / Getty Images

Drachenfelsstraße 118, 53639 Königswinter, Germany
Phone +49 2223 901970

Just outside the city of Bonn, which is approximately 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of Cologne, the Drachenberg Castle towers high above the river valley. The castle was actually built as a private home in the style of a castle in the late 18th century. It was originally the idea of Stephen Sarter, who died without ever getting a chance to live there. In the twentieth century, custody of the castle changed hands many times from the original descendants of its builder, to an order of the Catholic Church, and the Nazi Party, who used the castle as a school during World War II, before eventually landing in the jurisdiction of the state.

In the latter half of the century, the castle was officially designated as a monument and it underwent a series of restorations. Today, visitors can tour the grounds and marvel at the majestic main staircase, through the trophy room, dining room, and the light-filled art gallery which displays glass art.

08 of 15

Cochem Castle

Cochem Castle on a hill

Luna04 / Wikimedia

Schlossstraße 36, 56812 Cochem, Germany
Phone +49 2671 255

Sitting on a green hilltop, the ornate Reichsburg Cochem Castle overlooks the small village of Cochem on the banks of the Moselle River in the German Rhineland. The first mentions of the castle in history date back to the 12th century and it also played a part in the Nine Years' War when it was overrun by French troops. For centuries the castle was mostly in ruin until it was restored by a businessman from Berlin in the 19th century and rebuilt in the Gothic Revival style.

Guided tours are available between March and November and inside the castle, visitors will notice that it is furnished with renaissance and baroque-era furnishings which belonged to the family who funded the restoration in the 19th century. On the tour, visitors will learn of the many legends of the castles from the battles to the dramas of its royalty, including the epic tale of how a mob was defeated using the strategic stacking of empty wine barrels.

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09 of 15

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle located on top of Mount Hohenzollern near Stuttgart

Jim Trodel / Flickr

72379 Burg Hohenzollern, Germany
Phone +49 7471 2428

Located 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Stuttgart, the hilltop Hohenzollern Castle was built in the 19th century, the third castle to be built on this site. The original castle was built in the middle ages and destroyed during a siege in the 15th century. the second castle was much stronger and larger than the present-day castle but fell to ruin in the 18th century. Today, visitors can tour the castle which was built by the Prussian Prince, who was first inspired to visit the site on a trip to discover his family's routes.

Today it is one of the busiest castles in Germany, hosting over 300,000 visitors per year. During Christmas, the castle is decked out with traditional decorations and a colorful light show is projected outside on the castle walls. If you're lucky enough to catch the castle under a fresh blanket of snow, the scene can be even more magical, especially if you get reservations to enjoy a holiday meal in the restaurant.

10 of 15

Schwerin Castle

Germany, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schwerin, Schwerin Castle at dusk

Westend61 / Getty Images

Lennéstraße 1, 19053 Schwerin, Germany
Phone +49 385 58841572

Picturesquely located in the middle of Lake Schwerin, this castle was once home to the dukes of Mecklenburg. The site of the castle is very old with records dating back to a fort built on the island in the 10th century. The standing palace you see today was mostly built in the 16th century and additions were made for comfort and luxury.

The castle is still used today as the seat of government for the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommen, but there is also a museum open to the public where you can get a peek inside. From the round tower room, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view across the lake and in the baroque garden, the orangery, a room used to protect fruit trees in the winter, that has been transformed into a lovely cafe.

11 of 15

Weesenstein Castle

Weesenstein Castle

LianeM / Getty Images

Weesenstein, 01809 Müglitztal, Germany

Near Dresden, this castle is located in the small village of Muglitzal and was originally built originally in the 13th century as a defensive castle. Later, it was transformed into a residential castle, passed through many different families, and was used by multiple kings of Saxony in the 19th century. During World War II, an art collection was stored inside the castle which spared it from being hit during the bombing of Dresden. It eventually fell into the hands of the state and today guests are welcome to check out the museum and explore the rooms of the castle.

Throughout Weesenstein Castle, you'll notice a mix of architectural styles but the baroque chapel is considered to be the architectural highlight of the visit. On a tour, you'll also see remnants of the castle's earlier eras when the rooms were more heavily fortified.

12 of 15

Wernigerode Castle

Wernigerode Castle features a foundation that dates back to the 12th century.
(Photo: CanD in the Sky/SkyPixel)
Am Schloß 1, 38855 Wernigerode, Germany
Phone +49 3943 553030

In the Harz Mountains of Saxony, 75 miles (122 kilometers) southeast of Hannover, this castle is built on a slope over the city of Wernigerode. Originally used as a fortress during the medieval era, it has gone through many changes over time with the addition of gothic windows and a Renaissance staircase tower. A two-part tour is required to visit the nearly 50 rooms that make up the interior of the castle, which also has three garden areas.

During a visit, you can see the castle's attics, towers, cellar, and enjoy a nice view of the town and Brocken, the tallest peak of the Harz Mountains. In addition to the traditional guided tours, there are also versions with costumed tour guides and special programming for children.

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Dresden Castle

Catholische Hofkirche with the Dresden Castle
Linda Garrison
Taschenberg 2, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 49142000

One of the oldest buildings in this bustling city, Dresden Castle was first built as a Romanesque keep in the 13th century and grew over the ages into a medley of Renaissance and Baroque styles. After suffering major damage during World War II, the castle's restoration began in the 1960s and is still ongoing.

The castle, also known as the Dresden Royal Palace, can be best seen by visiting one of its many museums. These include the Green Vault, which has one of the largest collections of jewels and treasures, the Numismatic Cabinet, dedicated to historic coins, the Collection of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, the Dresden Armory, and the Turkish Chamber, which displays a collection of art from the Ottoman Empire.

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Rheinstein Castle

Burg Rheinstein, a 14th century fortification on the Rhine Gorge, Germany

Louise Heusinkveld / Getty Images

Burg Rheinstein, 55413 Trechtingshausen, Germany
Phone +49 6721 6348

Perched over the Rhine River, this 13th-century castle uniquely features a working drawbridge and portcullis, which really makes it seem like it popped straight out of the pages of a storybook. Originally falling into ruin during the 17th century, it was restored in 1823 and rebuilt to fit the romanticism style. The castle has a rich history, having hosted famous royal visitors like Queen Victoria and the Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

Today it is privately-owned, but visitors are invited to explore the gardens, terraces, and interior of the castle on their own, where you can see suits of armor, stained glass windows, and antique furniture dating back to the 17th century.

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Mespelbrunn Castle

Medieval moated castle, Mespelbrunn Castle, built in the early 1400's is situated in the Elsava valley of the Spessart forest, Bavaria, Germany.

Speedway1 / Getty Images

Mespelbrunn, Germany

Set beside a small pond, this remote Bavarian castle, located 43 miles (70 kilometers) from Frankfurt, was originally built as a humble home for a knight in 1412 with fortifications added a few decades later by the knight's son, which gives it that quintessential castle look it has today. The castle was private until the 1930s when economic pressures forced the Ingelheim family to open part of the castle to the public while still residing in the southern wing.

To see the castle, you must take a 40-minute tour which will give you allow you to take a peek into the knight's hall, castle courtyard, and the private park. There are also many hiking trails in the area surrounding the castle and the nearest town is Aschaffenburg.

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15 Best Castles and Palaces in Germany